[caption id="attachment_275454" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Mitt Romney, left, hugs U.S. Rep. Marco Rubio,(R-Fla) after Rubio intruduced him to the crowd during a campaign stop in Miami, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)[/caption]
"That report is false, I have no reason to believe he's anywhere near endorsing anyone. I would love to have his endorsement. It's important to nominate someone who can bring everyone together ... and that's one reason I think I'll be the nominee, and Romney could be a part of that," Rubio said on CNN's "State of the Union."
The Establishment hesitated to rally behind Rubio as long as Jeb Bush remained in the race. The Republican Establishment, seeing the Bush campaign's inability to gain traction, actually began to rally around Rubio last week. At the New York Times' "FiveThirtyEight," Harry Enten noted the Establishment movement to endorse Rubio:
Rubio has picked up the endorsements of Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina this week. Indeed, Rubio has greatly increased his endorsement pace since the Iowa caucuses, picking up 42 weighted endorsement points in the past two-and-a-half weeks, according to the FiveThirtyEight endorsement tracker. That’s nearly half of the 85 points he has overall.
FiveThirtyEight’s system gives 10 points for endorsements from governors, five points for endorsements from U.S. senators and one point for endorsements from U.S. representatives.
It's not clear how much endorsements help, But there can be little doubt that having Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott and Congressman Trey Gowdy, all TEA Party favorites, was a big boost for Rubio in South Carolina. But can you really consider that Establishment support?
Will Romney's support help Rubio? It may make him more acceptable to the Establishment voters -- the nearly half of the Republican primary electorate not voting for Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, giving Rubio an edge over Kasich. Politico is calling Rubio Romney 2.0:
But strip away Rubio’s rags-to-presidential contender biography, and his candidacy has more than a little in common with Romney’s -- from policy platforms that are largely in sync to a braintrust that boasts a number of the same key figures. When it comes to the substance of what he’d try to do in the job, at least, Rubio is not promising a sharp break from the last establishment favorite the party put forward.
"I think that they are very much on the same place on most of the issues," Vin Weber, a former House member and special adviser to Romney in 2012, said approvingly. On foreign policy, taxes and economic growth, “their positions are very similar, and on most of the other domestic and social issues they come down the same place as well.”
Romney's former political director Rich Beeson serves as deputy campaign manager for Rubio. Lanhee Chen of the Hoover Institute worked as Romney's policy director and now serves as a policy advisor to Rubio. And Rubio's political director, Jessica Ennis, was Romney's deputy operations director. Rubio's finance people, Annie Baker and Eli Miller, also worked for Romney's 2012 campaign. And Rubio's outside strategists, including Poolhouse Digital, which is run by two Romney alums: Will Ritter and Tim O’Toole.
The difference between Rubio and Romney is the messenger. It's Rubio's American Dream story versus Romney's silver spoon and Rubio's gift of being perhaps the most articulate candidate since Ronald Reagan. As Politico puts it:
At every campaign stop, Marco Rubio calls it “the biggest lie in American politics” – the notion that Republicans are the party of the super wealthy, and hopelessly out of touch with the working class and minorities.
The party, in other words, that Democrats eviscerated with Mitt Romney at the helm in 2012.
[. . .]
We can’t afford to keep being your father’s Republican Party. And if you want to stop talking about expanding the GOP tent and actually do it – without compromising on principle – I’m your guy.
Sure, there is a huge connection between the defeated Romney campaign and Rubio campaign, But that hardly makes the once TEA Party favorite Rubio Romney 2.0. As Rubio continues to morph into the Establishment favorite the question remains, can he make a dent in the Trump and Cruz anti-Establishment voters. Will enough of those voters give up the grudge they continue to hold against Rubio for his Gang of Eight work on comprehensive immigration reform? Or as those voters refer to it -- Amnesty.